My son broke down yesterday - there were lots of reasons. And most of them are private, so I won’t share. But what came out of it was that he is lonely and really wants a dog. He has always had a little dog. But adopting from a shelter has provided us loving, sweet dogs with health issues. And unfortunately, despite great care and a good home, both of his prior dogs died suddenly. One had a cancerous tumor that ended her life and the other had a seizure disorder that ended her life. Both deaths were super tragic for my son.
Last night as he sat on the floor of my office crying, I saw his pain. I saw how alone he felt. I hugged him and talked to him. I could see how traumatized he was about losing his two best friends. For kids on the spectrum, adolescence is hard. During a pandemic things for him got even harder. He is alone, at home all of the time. He has a few friends online but that is all. His entire world is me, his sister, phone calls with his dad and my parents and online gaming with friends from Texas. That is it.
Last night when he kind of lost it, I could see how lonely he was and how alone he felt. I felt like shit for not noticing sooner. I felt awful to see how much grief and pain he was in from losing his pets. I saw how much sadness and pain was inside him. And I saw how being a boy and a teen, expressing that kind of pain and hurt is especially difficult. What did I expect? Him to come talk to me about his grief and trauma? Of course it has come out as anger. Of course, he has stuffed it and tried to make the best of it.
Sometimes as a parent, you totally and completely miss your children even as you live under the same roof with them. Even though you see them, talk to them, eat with them and live almost every moment of your life with them. Sometimes, you still miss them.
And I did.
I feel awful. I didn’t see how much he was hurting. I didn’t see how much pain he was in about being forced to return to my house from his dad’s in Texas. I didn’t see how much grief he carried in the loss of his last best friend, Gidget. I didn’t see how lonely he was even though he has no friends to hang with or places to go.
This isn’t about me, but I really, really feel like shit that I didn’t see the depth of despair and pain he was in. Was it because I didn’t want to? Was it because it was hard to identify under all the anger and argument? Was I too self involved? Was it just not time for it to all be aired? What could I have done better? How could I have helped more?
I have been in this parenting place a million times...think I am doing an ok job only to realize that I am not. Apologize. Begin again with a renewed intention to do better, be better.
But like with most things, parenting is an evolving practice. I try, and try and try again. I am never going to get it perfect, or maybe even right. But that never obviates my obligation and duty to keep trying and evoke from myself a willingness to begin again...repeatedly.
I love my son. He is a wonderful person with many challenges. I feel awful that he is so sad. I really do not want another dog...for a lot of reasons. But today, my reasons fail. I am being asked again, to get out of my own way and allow someone else’s needs to come before my own. And I am trying. I also have to be honest and authentic. And today, this morning, I am not sure how to reconcile that...
So I will do what I know works every time. I will pray for guidance. For a clear path through. I will trust that if a new dog is supposed to come into our lives, it will. I will begin to do the hard work of moving my thinking from “Hell no I do not want another dog!” to “I am willing to do what is best for my child, even if that means getting another dog...”
Life is such an interesting evolving process...parenting just ups the ante. Demanding and exacting from me more than I think I have to give every single day. I never knew that parenting would be such a rigorous demand upon me spiritually, emotionally and physically...I am not sure how I didn’t know that, but I didn’t.
To dog or not to dog, that is the question. But it isn’t really...there is just one question that I already answered when he was born...Are you going to make sure that he gets what he needs from you to have the best life ever?
Yes, I said. Yes I promised. Lucky me that what he needs most right now
comes in a furry happy ball of fluff. Who knew?